The Office: How the Cast Are Like Monkeys at the Zoo
Brian Baumgartner plays Dunder Mifflin’s oafish accountant Kevin Malone, who at the start of the current season was the subject of a practical joke when Dwight (Rainn Wilson) told the new H.R. rep Holly (Amy Ryan) that Kevin was mentally challenged. Baumgartner can also be seen playing Kevin in The Office webisodes series “Kevin’s Loan,” at NBC.com.
VF Daily: Did I catch you in the middle of a day of shooting?
Brian Baumgartner: Yeah. We’re always working here, but it’s all right. It’s all good.
With 28 episodes this season, is it kind of a grueling schedule? I know it’s not exactly working in the mines, but …
Yeah, I think that’s fair enough. We typically shoot Monday through Friday, one week per episode. We do occasionally have to go do Saturdays or other funky stuff. It’s been a particularly difficult stretch right now.
So what do you like about the playing the part of Kevin?
You know, in some ways you could make an argument that there’s not a lot of depth. But I think what’s very fun about him is the ability to always be in the moment. In other words, the thing about Kevin is that he doesn’t remember what happened before, and he doesn’t really see ramifications for the future. So he doesn’t think about the consequences of anything he says, which makes it fun—to be just sort of delightfully in the moment. And whether that’s childlike or slow or whatever you want to call it, I’ve had a really great time with that.
He kind of has that in common with [office boss] Michael Scott, when you think about it.
A little bit, yes. Not quite as sophisticated or polished maybe, but yeah.
But in spite of his coming off as somewhat of a buffoon sometimes, is he actually a good accountant, do you think?
He’s probably not a great accountant. He probably doesn’t instill a whole lot of trust in the people around him.
So what’s it like on set, those long shooting days?
The idea in the beginning was to create a real office. So our computers really work and our phones really work. The idea is that we are either A) getting work done or B) farting around on the computer or whatever people do in their offices. I mean, I sometimes forget that this is not how it is on other shows. We literally are in the middle of shooting a scene, and I’m reading e-mail or responding to e-mail or whatever—which works perfectly, because as long as I’m paying attention and become involved in the scene when I need to, really what I’m supposed to be doing is working. So I think that certainly makes it different and unique. And yeah, there’s a good bit of messing around, but because of the way that the show shoots, we’re all in that office area by ourselves with just a couple of cameras and maybe a director looking at monitors. Everybody else, the whole crew and anybody watching, is in a totally different space. We’re a little bit like monkeys, locked in a cage together. Like at the zoo. So by the end of the day it can get a little crazy, but ultimately we’re all there to just get it done.
But you don’t get to the point of throwing feces at each other like the monkeys do.
No. Except Creed.
That sounds scary. So how did you get involved in the show in the first place?
You know, I just got very lucky. I was doing theater in New York and regional theater, traveling around the country, and I decided to come to Los Angeles to look at doing film and television. I moved to Los Angeles and decided wasn’t going to accept any theater work for a year, and about four months later I met these guys for The Office. I did it sort of the old-fashioned way. I didn’t know anybody. My agent at the time told me that they were looking for unknown people, but not like me unknown—not completely unknown. But I met with the casting director and ended up meeting with [executive producer] Greg Daniels and Ken Kwapis, who directed the pilot. We got along well, and it’s insane now that it’s been over five years since it all started. And unlike most shows on television now, with DVRs and all that stuff, we’re actually still growing, which is insane in our fifth year. It’s just like a cult that continues to go more mainstream. It’s insane, but it’s very gratifying. And we’re all happy and excited.